Don Garber - November 1, 2008

Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber held his annual State of the League announcement on Thursday afternoon, where he singled out Toronto FC for its investment in youth development.

“In Toronto, these guys just broke ground on a $20 million training ground,” Garber told reporters of the Academy and Training Facility at Downsview Park during his teleconference.

“This is by far the biggest investment anywhere (in North America).”

Garber added that he hopes this will encourage other MLS teams to follow through on major Academy development, as North American teams look to furnish their squads with homegrown talent who would otherwise look to Europe as a professional outlet.

A matter near and dear to Toronto coaches, players and fans – the schedule – was discussed candidly by the commissioner.  He disclosed that a 34-game unbalanced schedule is in the works for 2012 and that the competition committee was “pretty far along in a lot of (scheduling) areas.”

He further imparted that reworking the MLS Cup Playoffs format was “up for discussion” and there is a “strong possibility of rewarding the MLS Cup (Final match) based on regular season performance” rather than a fixed venue.

Garber defended often derided MLS referees by insisting that the league’s “officiating is a hell of a lot better than fans give us credit for,” but a “deep dive” is in the works with United States Soccer Federation and the Canadian Soccer Association to better assess officials and find room for improvement.

Before taking questions from reporters, the commissioner also touched on Toronto rival Montreal Impact, who will enter MLS in 2012 to create what will instantly become one of the hottest rivalries in North American sports. Garber revealed that the Impact were behind on stadium expansion, but should be on track to finish construction in time for its inaugural season.